In what is a story line that would be at home in any feel good sports film, Tumut cricketers Nathan Butt and Hayden Watling have helped the South Wagga Blues to an unlikely Cricket Wagga under 16s premiership.
Playing the unbeaten Lake Albert at Forest Hill Oval, the Blues were in trouble after their first innings on Saturday, winning the toss but only scoring 8/129 from their 40 overs.
Still, South Wagga and the Tumut cricketers mustered enough to defend the small total, bowling out Lake Albert for 112 runs in the 37th over.
Watling opened the bowling and stifled the Lake Albert openers with the very tidy figures of 6.5 overs for two maidens, one wicket and only 11 runs.
“It was quite unexpected that we won,” Watling said.
“They were undefeated all year and we didn’t set much of a score but we defended it quite well.”
Watling, who featured in the Blues first and second grade teams in 2019/20, was ecstatic with the win, saying it was the highlight of his young cricketing career.
“It’s good playing grade but to win a grand final in your own age group and with your mates is really special,” Watling said.
“We are a tight-knit group and we were always confident and I’m just so happy we got the win.”
Despite failing with the bat in the first innings and only scoring five runs, Butt made his presence felt in the field, with some important contributions.
Butt took a catch to send Liam Davies packing and also earned two run outs, removing Baxter Wallett before securing the South Wagga win after he sent Jack Woodhouse back to the pavilion after a smart piece of fielding.
“It was good to make a contribution in the win considering I only scored five with the bat,” Butt laughed.
Butt did have heavy involvement in the lead up to the decider though, scoring 41 at the top of the order in his side’s semi final win over Wagga City.
“I was happy to help the team this season and to win a grand final is pretty awesome,” Butt said.
“It is my first grand final win in cricket.”
South Wagga coach Mark Barton was quick to praise both Tumut players, saying that they brought energy to the Wagga team.
“They are both really nice kids and they are a real pleasure to coach,” Barton said.
“They want to learn and will do whatever is asked and they are very popular amongst the playing group, offering plenty of energy on and off the field.”
Barton went on to highlight Watling and Butt’s individual contributions to the South Wagga Blues this season.
“Hayden is one of the quickest bowlers in Wagga, he bowled well in the grand final and stopped them scoring,” Barton said.
“Nathan has been a very good batsman for us, he is a hard-hitting opener and although he missed out on runs in the final, he was terrific in the field and made some terrific plays that led to run outs.”
The South Wagga coach was sad to see the Tumut players progressing to seniors but he still envisioned a bright future.
“Both boys will definitely go onto grade and should feature in second and first grade next season,” Barton said.